tv monitor

Monitor (NBC Radio)

For NBC's 1983 television news magazine series, see Monitor (TV).

NBC Monitor was a weekend radio program broadcast which ran from June 12, 1955 until January 26, 1975. Airing live and nationwide on NBC Radio, originally beginning Saturday morning at 8am and continuing through the weekend until midnight on Sunday, it offered a magazine-of-the-air mix of news, sports, comedy, variety, music, celebrity interviews and other short segments. Its length and eclectic format were radical departures from the traditional radio programming structure of 30- and 60-minute programs and represented an ambitious attempt to respond to the rise of television as America's major home entertainment medium.

The show was the brainchild of legendary NBC radio and television network president Sylvester (Pat) Weaver, whose career bridged classic radio and television's infancy and who sought to keep radio alive in a television age. Believing that broadcasting could and should educate as well as entertain, Weaver fashioned a series to do both, with some of the best-remembered and best-regarded names in broadcasting, entertainment, journalism and literature taking part. Monitor and the Sunday afternoon TV documentary series Wide Wide World were Weaver's last two great contributions to NBC, as he left the network within a year of Monitor's premiere.

Monitor Beacon

The enduring audio signature of the show was the "Monitor Beacon"—a mix of audio-manipulated telephone tones and the sound of an oscillator emitting the Morse code signal for the letter "M," for "Monitor." It was described by one source as "a tape loop made from a sequence of 1950s AT&T telephone line switching tones generated by analog oscillators."

The Beacon introduced the show and was used in transitions, for example, to station breaks, accompanied by the tag line: "You're on the Monitor beacon." The otherworldly electronic tones of the Beacon can be heard by clicking here (in RealPlayer format).

Anchors and hosts

Monitor aired from a mammoth NBC studio called Radio Central, created especially for the program, on the fifth floor of the RCA Building in midtown Manhattan. NBC unveiled Radio Central to the national television audience during a segment in the October 16, 1955 premiere of Wide Wide World, including a Monitor interview with Alfred Hitchcock (minus audio) and a Monitor newscast (with audio). Built at a cost of $150,000, the glass-enclosed studios of Radio Central were described by Pat Weaver as "a listening post of the world."

From Radio Central, anchors and hosts, initially dubbed "communicators," presided over three- or four-hour segments of the show. Well-known entertainment or broadcasting figures, they gave Monitor an impressive marquee and included: Cindy Adams; Mel Allen; Johnny Andrews; Jim Backus; Red Barber; Frank Blair; Bruce Bradley; David Brinkley; Ted Brown; Ed Bryce; Art Buchwald; Al "Jazzbo" Collins; Brad Crandall; Bill Cullen; James Daly; Jerry Damon; Dan Daniel; Hugh Downs; Clifton Fadiman; Art Fleming; Art Ford; Allen Funt; Frank Gallop; Joe Garagiola; Dave Garroway; Ben Grauer; Peter Hackes; Monty Hall; Bill Hanrahan; Bill Hayes; Bob Haymes; Wayne Howell; Don Imus; Candy Jones; Murray the K; Walter Kiernan; Durward Kirby; Jim Lowe; Hal March; Frank McGee; Ed McMahon; Garry Moore; Henry Morgan; Robert W. Morgan; Barry Nelson; Bert Parks; Leon Pearson; Tony Randall; Gene Rayburn; Peter Roberts; Don Russell; Ted Steele; John Cameron Swayze; Tony Taylor; John Bartholomew Tucker; David Wayne; Big Wilson and Wolfman Jack. Behind the scenes, Monitor's executive producers included Jim Fleming, Frank Papp, Al Capstaff and Bob Maurer.

Features and personalities

Regular segments included "Celebrity Chef," "Ring Around the World" and "On the Line with Bob Considine." On-the-spot live remote broadcasts from New York City jazz clubs on Saturday evenings included both jazz groups and vocalists, such as Al Hibbler.

In the show's early years, weather reports were delivered in a breathy, sexy voice by actress Tedi Thurman in the role of Miss Monitor. Various broadcasting personalities heard delivering reports and segments included Jerry Baker (the Master Gardener), Morgan Beatty, Joyce Brothers, Al Capp, Paul Christman, Marlene Dietrich, Len Dillon, Chris Economaki; Arlene Francis, Betty Furness, Curt Gowdy, Skitch Henderson, Chet Huntley, Graham Kerr (the Galloping Gourmet), Joe Kirkwood, Jr., Fran Koltun; Sandy Koufax, Bill Mazer, Lindsey Nelson, Kyle Rote, Gene Shalit, Jean Shepherd, Jim Simpson, Barbara Walters, Ted Webbe, Tony Zappone and many NBC News correspondents.

Many comedy talents appeared through the years, including Woody Allen, Bill Cosby, Selma Diamond, Phyllis Diller, Bob Hope, Ernie Kovacs, Bob Newhart and Jonathan Winters. The comedy team of Mike Nichols and Elaine May appeared on Monitor, as did Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara. Bob and Ray, who won a 1957 Peabody Award for their Monitor comedy routines, often remained at NBC during the weekend to step in if technical problems developed with remote segments.

In addition to Bob and Ray, several Monitor regulars in its early years helped the show bridge the classic and modern radio eras. Henry Morgan had been a controversial radio comedian in the 1940s. Clifton Fadiman was the legendary host of Information Please, the highbrow quiz show. Mel Allen and Red Barber were familiar baseball voices (respectively, the New York Yankees and the Brooklyn Dodgers) since the 1940s. Garry Moore rose to fame as Jimmy Durante's radio sidekick. Bert Parks was host of the radio hits Stop the Music and Break the Bank.

Several radio comedy shows were revived in the form of regular five-minute Monitor segments, including Duffy's Tavern. Jim and Marian Jordan, better known as old-time radio favorites Fibber McGee and Molly, held down a regular Monitor segment and were said to be negotiating a new, long-term commitment to the show when Marian Jordan died of cancer in 1961. Peg Lynch and Alan Bunce, vintage radio's Ethel and Albert, also performed five-minute Monitor vignettes (1963-65). Peg Lynch made several of the vignettes available on compact disc for OTR collectors.

Remote segments originating from locations around the country were a regular part of Monitor, setting it apart from studio-bound broadcasts and taking advantage of network radio's reach. A weekend might include reports from a festival in Tucson, a golf championship in North Carolina, NBC's correspondent in Moscow, or on preparations for the Olympic Games in Melbourne, Australia.

Later years

The innovative approach of Monitor made it a profitable success for NBC Radio over many years, helping to sustain the network in an era when network radio was collapsing. By the early 1960s, however, the show was reduced from 40 to 16 hours each weekend, and starting in 1974 only 12 live weekend hours were aired (plus nine repeated hours). Radio stations, especially in large markets, had increasingly adopted personality-driven formats featuring local disc jockeys and sought to establish a clear-cut musical or talk identity for themselves. The something-for-everyone character of Monitor often did not fit in, and fewer stations carried the program in major markets. NBC finally gave up fighting the trend, and the last show was broadcast January 26, 1975, almost 20 years after the Beacon first greeted listeners in 1955.

Listen to

See also



  • Hart, Dennis. Monitor (Take 2): The Revised, Expanded Inside Story of Network Radio's Greatest Program. 297 pages. New York: iUniverse, 2003. ISBN 0-595-28177-X

External links

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